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Five Ways to Avoid Being Too Creative on Your College App

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Five ways to avoid being too creative on your college app

The ultimate goal of preparing a college application is to get into to the school of your dreams. When you are competing for a coveted spot, it is critical to ensure that you stand out from the crowd. One way to do so is to be creative. But can you be too creative with college applications? Is there a line that you simply should not cross? Here are five tips on how to be creative with your college applications without going overboard

1. Be yourself

For admissions officers, the college application is a means of determining fit between a student and a school. Colleges wish to know, “Who is this person, and why would we want him or her to join this community?" Jennifer Delahunty Britz, Kenyon College’s Associate Dean of Admissions for the West Coast, told U.S. News and World Report. When you are authentic, you increase your likelihood of attending a college that is right for you—and creativity is an ideal way to better show who you truly are. You are a unique individual, so demonstrate that in your application.

2. Showcase your abilities

How can you demonstrate your uniqueness? Showcase your interests and skills. For example, if you are passionate about music, you might write a song that details your high school accomplishments. If you are a better speaker than you are a writer, perhaps you opt for a video essay. One applicant sent a shoe with a note that read, “I figured this was the best way to get my foot in the door.” Again, remember that your goal is to show the admissions committee who you are and what you can do.

3. Know your audience

Your application should also suggest that you are familiar with your audience, and that you have tailored your application accordingly. For instance, if the college or university values innovation and problem-solving, choose a creative approach and a subject that speaks to these qualities. Similarly, if a school says it does not accept video essays, do not submit one -- the admissions committee may wonder why you chose to ignore its rules.

4. Do not emphasize creativity alone

There is a fine line between standing out in a positive way and negatively distinguishing yourself. Unfortunately, it can be hard to determine where that line falls. The success of your application will partially depend on who receives it and what sort of day he or she is having. It will also depend on the supports you provide. If you have great grades and a high SAT score, you can afford to send a sneaker in the mail. If you do not have the accomplishments and grades to round out your application, creativity in and of itself will not result in an acceptance letter.

5. But do take a risk

Although you should avoid going overboard with creativity, taking a risk can improve your chances of acceptance. Students who take risks with the content and the structure of their college essays tend to be more successful, according to an article in Fast Company about AdmitSee, a social network that connects college students with applicants looking for advice. But take note -- it is important to not just take risks, but to do so in a way that is meaningful and thoughtful. Do not be creative for the sake of being creative. Instead, be purposeful in any application decision you make.

Colleges and universities seek students who will be successful in both college and life. They want their schools to be associated with these students. Although grades and test scores are important, they are not the only part of the application equation. Admissions committees are also looking for intangibles like passion, and one of the best ways to showcase your abilities and passions is to be creative with your college application.

So, can you be too creative? Yes. But with careful forethought (and these guidelines), you can submit an application that perfectly encapsulates you.

[Looking for more info? Here's how storytelling can help craft an amazing admissions video]

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